Douglas County official says behavioral health efforts need to include mobile crisis response team

photo by: Meeting screenshot/Criminal Justice Coordinating Council

Bob Tryanski, Douglas County's director for behavioral health projects, speaks to members of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council during a meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020.

A Douglas County official says a new crisis center and other facilities won’t be a “magic bullet” for improving mental health in the community, and he’s calling for the creation of a mobile crisis response team to supplement those efforts.

Bob Tryanski, the county’s director of behavioral health projects, told the county’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council Tuesday that local governments and health organizations should expand their mental health response strategy beyond just constructing treatment facilities. He stressed that behavioral health care doesn’t always take place in a crisis-center setting.

“All of these things have to be integrated,” Tryanski said. “Meeting people where they are before they need a crisis center … is another critical component we need to put in place.”

Currently, the county is constructing the Treatment and Recovery Campus of Douglas County, located at 1000 W. Second St., which will house facilities offering behavioral health services to county residents.

Construction on the largest piece of the campus, a behavioral health crisis and recovery center, recently began and is expected to be completed by the end of 2021. The other two facilities on the campus — a group housing facility called Transitions and a permanent affordable housing complex called The Cottages — are expected to begin operating soon.

Along with the facilities, Tryanski said creating a crisis response team, which the county would then integrate with existing 24/7 crisis hotlines, should be the next step in the community’s effort to improve behavioral health care.

Tryanski showed the council a video that said that 24/7 crisis hotlines allow a caller experiencing a crisis to speak to a trained behavioral health professional, rather than calling 911. The video also said that a mobile crisis response team of trained professionals could go to the scene of the crisis and provide immediate care, which law enforcement officers and other emergency responders are often not trained or equipped to provide.

Douglas County Criminal Justice Coordinator Mike Brouwer said examples of existing crisis hotlines include Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center’s after-hours line and Willow Domestic Violence Center’s domestic violence line.

While a mobile crisis team would act as an alternative to current first responder practices, Tryanski said it is not meant to be a replacement. He said this service and other first responders will need to work together to be effective.

“We need alternatives, but those alternatives need to be able to build upon what already exists,” he said. “When somebody is in a crisis, the public safety dimensions of that situation (and) the care and complexity of that situation requires that you have all of the right options in place.”

To establish a mobile response team and integrate the hotlines into its mission, a work group of local behavioral health leaders, government officials and others will be meeting monthly to work on a proposal, which they hope to release in March, Tryanski said.

He added that releasing the proposal early next year would make sure the county is aware of it when it crafts its 2022 budget next summer. That would then give the chance for the programs to be established in early 2022, which is the same time the crisis and recovery center is expected to begin operating, he said.

“That’s going to require some real work on our part, and probably we are going to want to pilot a component of this in 2021,” Tryanski said.

Related coverage:

• Nov. 10, 2019 — Construction of behavioral health campus set to begin, but price tag for Douglas County may grow

• Feb. 16, 2020 — Health leaders provide updated facility design for planned Douglas County behavioral health crisis center

• March 27, 2020 — Douglas County crisis center receives $750K in state budget

• Oct. 7, 2020 — Construction of Douglas County behavioral health crisis center expected to cost $8 million

• Oct. 13, 2020 — Douglas County Commission to consider authorizing financial plan for proposed behavioral health crisis center

• Oct. 14, 2020 — Douglas County Commission approves financial plan for behavioral health crisis center project

• Oct. 21, 2020 — Douglas County Commission authorizes debt plan for $8.8 million of behavioral health campus costs

• Oct. 23, 2020 — Douglas County, health partners break ground for construction of behavioral health crisis center

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